JAMA Publishes Study from Cambridge Consortium for RAPID COVID-19 Tests

September 3, 2021

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At LabCentral, we’ve developed rigorous and innovative approaches to battling COVID-19. This has been a priority since the beginning of the pandemic, and it continues today. This is a concerted effort ranging from our resident and alumni companies that immediately pivoted their focus from existing programs to COVID-19 diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines, to our own initiatives designed to help ensure the health and safety of those same scientists as they worked onsite in our labs, as well as our own employees.

One of the primary ways we’re doing this is through the CCRCT (Cambridge Consortium for Rapid COVID-19 Tests), a partnership between LabCentral, BioLabs and E25Bio which we created in July 2020. The goal of the Consortium is to provide fast, affordable SARS-CoV-2 screening for asymptomatic populations so they can safely return to work, school, and other activities. While PCR testing was the first available test in the summer of 2020 and is appropriate for medical diagnosis where a high degree of accuracy must be ensured, the Consortium was formed to explore alternative, cheaper and most importantly, faster tests which can be used in a point-of-care and office setting. As part of these activities, the Consortium used a direct antigen rapid test (DART), developed by E25Bio, that can return results with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity within 15 minutes.

The Consortium kicked off with a pilot of 200 volunteers, consisting of LabCentral and BioLabs employees and individuals from their resident companies. Each volunteer was able to self-administer the DART tests at home twice a week with the speed, convenience and ease of an at-home pregnancy test using simple color lines that show the test is working properly and whether it’s positive. The samples were also screened and compared to laboratory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for comparison.

With virtually no time or resource impact on participants, the pilot confirmed the effectiveness of DART in providing a frequent, real-time view of their COVID-19 infection status so they could feel confident about their own health as they worked onsite, as well as protecting the health of others around them. 

The results are detailed in the paper, “Validation of an At-Home Direct Antigen Rapid Test for COVID-19,” which has just been published by JAMAÒ, the Journal of the American Medical Association, in JAMA Network Open, an international peer-reviewed general medical journal. With an acceptance rate of only 7% of the more than 17,000 annual submissions and 3% of the more than 10,000 research papers received, we’re incredibly excited that our study made the cut.

Below is a brief summary of the study, from the full paper published in JAMA:

Use of twice-weekly DART testing allowed the activities of the co-working sites to continue safely during the pandemic. Most of the positive participants reported that they didn’t recognize symptoms of COVID-19 until they received a positive result. Policies that rely on self-reported symptoms miss or delay detection and allow viral spread within communities. Frequent at-home testing with DART allows infected individuals to be identified and quarantined immediately. Such surveillance can prevent viral transmission in in-person work environments or other social settings.

You can view the complete article here.

Since the end of our pilot study on May 27, 2021 we continue to screen employees, residents and visitors using DART as part of our efforts to mitigate COVID-19 across all our facilities and in our community at large.

We’re grateful to be able to share the details of our pilot program with JAMA’s worldwide audience and hopefully promote broader consideration of similar rapid testing protocols. Obviously, vaccinations are a critical tool in the multi-pronged approach that is needed to control and eventually eliminate this pandemic. But with the Delta variant surging and more variants sure to emerge, testing that is fast, accurate, inexpensive, and easy to administer will remain another essential tool in our public health arsenal.